When the Chiefs finally came on the clock Thursday, I had no idea what to expect. As some had predicted, there had been a run on receivers and the only player to "fall" to the Chiefs was controversial WR Marqise Lee, who many felt wasn't worth a first round pick. DT Aaron Donald was long gone, as were the two "big" names at safety. I expected the Chiefs to draft an interior defensive lineman or a guard at this point.
Instead, the Chiefs selected Dee Ford, a defensive end out of Auburn.
Given that the Chiefs already have Tamba Hali and Justin Houston on the roster, I hadn't paid much attention to the edge rushers available in this draft (outside of Jadeveon Clowney, from whom there was no escape in the media). So I knew very little about Dee Ford other than the fact that CBS had him ranked as the second best defensive end in the draft.
A quick Google search checked showed a variety of opinions on Ford. Some analysts felt he was a special talent for rushing the passer. Some felt he wasn't. Some said he had a variety of rush moves. Some said he needed to develop more moves. One interesting video (courtesy of our fearless leader) compared him to Hali. Hmmm.
Rather than try to sift through all the various opinions on Ford, I figured the smart thing to do would be to just watch whatever film is available on him. And thanks to the incredible site Draft Breakdown, I was able to do just that. If you haven't visited this place, do so. Far and away the best place to get film in a prospect. For NINE videos of Dee Ford's snaps vs. various teams, click here. As always, I urge you to check things out for yourself, rather than taking my word for it.
(Also, Draft Breakdown has recently added a GIF creator that even a tech illiterate like me can use. Good Lord, I may never do anything productive again. Links to said GIFs shall be provided to keep the page from slowing WAY down.)
Before I talk about the film, though, let's take a look at Ford statistically and physically. For the sake of ease, let's compare him with Tamba when he came out of Penn State (remember all those years ago?).
Dee Ford: Stats and the rest
Ford's last season at Auburn he was credited with 10.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss, and 29 total tackles. Comparing that to Hali's last year at Penn State, it's pretty similar with one exception: 11 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, and 65 total tackles. Obviously, Tamba's tackle number was significantly higher. But the pass rushing stats are pretty much the same.
Physically, Ford is built just a little different from Young Tamba, who was 6'3 and weighed in at 275 pounds. Ford, who stands 6'2, weighed in at his pro day a full 20-plus pounds lighter than that at 252 pounds. So the Hali comparison, physically, doesn't quite add up.
That comparison gets a little more tenuous when you start looking at their work at their respective pro days.
Tamba Hali: 4.87 40-yard dash, 18 reps at 225 pounds, 30 inch vertical jump, 8'10 broad jump, 4.31 shuttle, 7.28 3-cone drill
Dee Ford: 4.59 40-yard dash, 29 reps at 225 pounds, 35.5 inch vertical jump, 10'4 broad jump, 4.73 shuttle, 7.07 3-cone drill.
Outside of the shuttle (which one might take as an aberration considering the results of his 3-cone drill), Ford's speed and explosion jumps out as far outpacing what Hali showed at his pro day. A more apt comparison would be Justin Houston, whose combine and pro day numbers are nearly identical to Ford's, though Ford's 40 time is slightly faster.
Those numbers would indicate a player with a great deal more speed / athleticism than Hali (who is a great player, don't get me wrong) brings to the table. As for the rest, all we can do is look to the tape.
Dee Ford on film
After reviewing multiple games on Ford, I think it's safe to say the Chiefs have found someone who can help get after the quarterback. First things first ... dat first step:
Lord have mercy. Of course, I can hear someone saying "Yeah, but that's from the left side, where almost all of Ford's tape is. We want to see him blow past a left tackle before I'm impressed!"
What I really like about that particular GIF is the fact that Ford fakes EVER so slightly like he's going to rush inside. The left tackle responds in just as slight a way, then Ford just runs right by him. A really nice job of setting up a tackle after he'd used pure speed rushes several times in a row.
I'll get to the setup of the tackle in a moment. For now, seriously, dat first step! After watching a couple dozen snaps of Ford it's obvious that comparisons to Hali are misleading at best. Tamba is not a guy who burns tackles off the edge. He's one of the best hand-fighters in the league, but he's just not a speed rush guy. Never has been.
Ford is a different kind of pass rusher. A really, really fast one. That's the first thing that pops out on Ford's tape. The man can really, really move. Not only does this result in him being able to get around tackles quickly, but it also allows him to close on quarterbacks very quickly when he's turned the corner. Too often last season it seemed like the Chiefs edge rushers took just a half second too long to get to the quarterback. Having a guy with Ford's speed should help with that.
Another reason that Ford's athleticism is important is that it leaves open the idea as to whether he can drop back in coverage at times. I was surprised upon reviewing the film to find Ford in coverage several times in pretty much every game (he also rushed standing up multiple times, but I don't think that'll surprise anyone). There wasn't enough of it to make any real determinations, but more than once I watched Ford turn and run with running backs out of the backfield and have no issue keeping up whatsoever. He's also very physical with receivers near the line, which I really like.
If Ford is able to drop back in coverage without being a gaping hole in the defense (whether it's in a zone or shadowing a running back), that opens up a ton of possibilities for contributions THIS season. As has been noted, in the Chiefs playoff loss, the defense didn't line up in a 3-4 set even once. There was a great deal of 3-2-6 and 3-3-5. What Ford could potentially allow would be a 2-4-5 (or even 1-4-6) set on obvious passing downs or when opposing offenses have three receivers on the field. IF Ford can be even kinda / sorta competent in coverage, the threat of him blitzing will create confusion for offensive coordinators where last year there was none.
I can't say Ford will be a guy who can drop into coverage, but he most certainly has the athleticism for it and has done so in limited doses. And if nothing else, maybe he'll just recognize the play and demolish running backs before they can even get into their route.
Come on, that was fun to watch, no? Everything else aside, I want my linebackers PHYSICAL in coverage.
Another thing about Ford, alluded to above, is that he's not necessarily a one-trick pony. While he does tend to rely on his elite speed / explosion (as well as his ability to time snap counts, which is downright spooky occasionally) to run past offensive tackles, he also flashes a variety of moves / techniques when pure speed isn't doing the job. The second GIF demonstrated a quick fake inside on a tackle who has been facing pure speed rushes so far. If tackles bite even a little on that fake, Ford has them burned.
One of Ford's favorite techniques when a tackle is keeping up with him on a speed rush is to convert to a bull rush, often extending with just one hand to push tackles (who are busy kick-sliding like their lives depend on it) backward. Usually, since tackles are so focused on his speed off the edge, he's able to get some push. At times he's even able to just throw the tackle to the ground with this move. He used this move multiple times against Cedric Ogbuehi during the Texas A&M game, a guy many believe will be a top pick in next year's draft.
Ogbuehi is crazy-athletic for a man his size and strength, so the speed rushes weren't doing the trick. Ford switched things up and was able to force him off-balance. Ogbuehi, being a smart guy, does the correct thing and grabs Ford on his way to the ground, risking a penalty to save his quarterback. But it's a good example of Ford adapting to an offensive line who is able to match his speed. Ford's natural strength allows him to get to the quarterback regardless. And this wasn't an isolated incident.
With the game on the line, A&M faced a fourth down with Johnny Football looking to pull off a miracle. Except he never got a chance. Same player, same technique, similar result: Ford getting to the quarterback. Only this time Ogbuehi wasn't able to use a hold to keep Ford away from Lil' Johnny.
That's just a clutch, clutch play. And this wasn't even Ford's only sack on that very drive (you know, the most crucial drive of the game). He absolutely took over that game down the stretch.
I'm not going to lie; Ogbuehi gave Ford problems at times. But the same could be said the other way around. At the end of the day, Ford came out of a game where he was up against elite-caliber competition and walked away the winner of the day. The same can't be said for a lot of pass rushers coming into the draft.
Another move Ford uses alongside his speed rush is the rip. Because he's so fast off the edge this move can result in him getting to the quarterback before there's any time for the play to develop. He showed the Chiefs fifth round pick Aaron Murray this ability up close and personal.
Ouch. Ford was just MEAN to Murray when their teams met. I feel like Ford should buy him supper and let him know it wasn't personal or something. But you see here everything that makes Ford appealing. Quick first step, goes right to the rip, turns the corner immediately ... a quarterback doesn't have a chance in this situation. This is a move I'd love to see Ford use more often because when he went to it he often found success.
Generally speaking, Ford stuck with his bread-and-butter combination of speed, bull rushing, and rip moves. However, he also would at times use an outside fake to try and gain a step toward the inside and straight at the quarterback. He generally only did this when it was called for as part of a stunt. But when asked to do so, it worked well, with Ford showing enough speed to get inside and enough strength to push toward the quarterback.
Tell me you wouldn't love to see Ford and Houston pulling off some version of that, with Houston stunting to the outside while Ford goes inside. The only answer (as Georgia's offensive line shows) is to just blatantly hold and hope it doesn't get called.
Ford also showed some (emphasis on "some") swims and spins, but these were few and far between. I'd love to see him add these more often because with his speed they seemed to work well. But as of now they aren't a significant part of his pass-rushing attack.
Overall, Ford shows up well on tape. And it's not just his athleticism either. He's generally relentless in pursuit and plays up until the whistle. He seems to have a good awareness of the play around him, although he (like a lot of young pass rushers) can get sucked upfield too easily at times. His discipline is something he'll have to work on to not be vulnerable to screens / draws at the next level.
Ford is small, but does show power for his size. That said, he's definitely not ready to set the edge at the NFL level. I don't think he'll ever be as strong in that area as Justin Houston. However, it's tough to gauge his film because he's generally JUST trying to rush the passer. That makes it hard to determine how he'll do as a run stopper. I'm assuming the hope is he'll be competent enough to stay on the field by the time he takes over as a starter. Hopefully, Dorsey is correct on this. It's far and away his biggest weakness at this point.
But overall, I was impressed by Ford. He definitely stands out on tape. Perhaps most impressive to me is how he came through when his team absolutely needed a play. You saw the sack against Johnny Football. He also ended the Georgia comeback attempt by poor, poor Aaron Murray.
OUCH. Ford gets caught up in a scrum due to their defensive line stunt. He could be out of the play, but like I said... relentless. He keeps his head up (awareness), sees Murray trying to make a play, then runs him down in what seems like the blink of an eye (speed). And that hit ... Yikes. Again, Dee, I'm just saying ... it wouldn't kill you to send your new teammate a card or something. "I'm sorry I hurt your soul" is probably available at Hallmark.
But the point is that in two of Auburn's biggest games this year (and they had a TON of big games. Their schedule was brutal), Ford stepped up to squash comeback attempts by making THE definitive play in each game. The same thing happened with the National Championship game. Auburn lost, but it wasn't due to Ford, who was living in the backfield that day. This is just one of a dozen plays he disrupted (Ford is the orange square, not the yellow circle).
My favorite part of that play (a Ford sack of Jameis Winston, for those whose bosses are too mean to let you interweb)? Ford FINISHES despite only getting one hand on a quarterback who can best be described as a magician. But this GIF is just one example of many plays Ford made that day. Once again, when it mattered the most, Ford stepped his game up a notch. That gives me a lot of confidence in his ability to succeed at the next level.
Ford is a gifted athlete who can get to the quarterback in a hurry due to his speed. He also is more than that, with multiple rush moves that complement one another (though this area will need to be developed). He is undersized, but displays the strength of a guy 10 pounds bigger (again, though, still needs work here).
Overall, Bob Sutton NEEDS to find a way to get Ford on the field this season. Not only will that help Ford develop his game for the day he's called upon to be our full time starter (and that day is likely coming next year, one way or the other), but it will allow the Chiefs defense to bring heat on quarterbacks in creative ways. The Seahawks showed us you can never, ever, ever have too many pass rushers.
Last year, the Chiefs pass rush mostly consisted of talented players winning their match-ups. It was mostly the same guys rushing from the same place every pass play. With Ford on the field, that should change. I'm picturing plays with Dontari Poe as the single down lineman with Ford, Houston, Hali, and DJ all on their feet close to the line of scrimmage. Where is the pass rush coming from? Last year, Peyton Manning was able to dissect the Chiefs defense in part because they were predictable. Hopefully Ford helps fix that in the short term while training for the long term.
Ask Aaron Murray, he'll tell you all about it.